ECE PhD Student Receives Prestigious NASA Fellowship

in ECE - Imaging and Optical Science, ECE Spotlight Graduate Research, ECE Spotlight Student, ECE Spotlight-Research

Nithin Sivadas Earns NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship

By Shereen Abubakr (QST ’18)

Magnetospheric Polar Substorm course at UNIS, from left to right: Andreas Kvammen, Zoe Strimbeck Bazilchuck, Katie Herlingshaw, Anders Lindanger, Nithin Sivadas, Justin Tonti-Filippini, Stein Halaand (Course Instructor)
Students from the Magnetospheric Polar Substorm course at UNIS (left to right): Andreas Kvammen, Zoe Strimbeck Bazilchuck, Katie Herlingshaw, Anders Lindanger, Nithin Sivadas, Justin Tonti-Filippini, Stein Halaand (Researcher and Professor). Nithin Sivadas is advised by Professor Joshua Semeter.

In 2017, PhD Student Nithin Sivadas (ECE ‘19) was awarded the NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship in recognition of contributions to the field of Heliophysics. Sivadas feels extremely humbled to have been awarded the fellowship, “this means that NASA’s Heliophysics Division considers my work valuable and aligned with their scientific goals.” He is one of 9 fellows selected from a pool of 41 applicants. Sivadas’ advisor, Professor Joshua Semeter, nominated him for the honor.

The NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship supports Sivadas exploration of the aurora, which is also known as the northern lights. Sivadas’s goal is to understand the energetic particles that cause the aurora. Elucidating particle behavior, and origin of these particles, will improve the collective understanding of space weather. An upshot of Sivadas’ research will be to enhance safety of space travel and satellite electronics.

Nithin Sivadas captured this photo of the aurora while studying at the University Center in Svalbard.
Nithin Sivadas captured this photo of the aurora while studying at the University Center in Svalbard.

The Fellowship awards a stipend of $35,000 and $5,000 for travel per year to encourage specialized training. Sivadas is nearly one year into his fellowship, and has directed a portion of the stipend to support his academic pursuits at the University Center in Svalbard (UNIS). UNIS is on the island of Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean which is considered a prime site to observe and investigate the polar aurora.

Backed by NASA and BU’s Center for Space Physics, Sivadas secured the financial support to enroll in a 6 week research program at SRI International in Menlo Park, California. In this program, Sivadas has worked with top scientists, and developed an expertise in conducting radar experiments used to study the aurora.

Within the last year, Sivadas’ research has been published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, and he has been appointed CEDAR Science Steering Committee Student Representative.

Sivadas attributes his success to hard work and persistence. “I applied to the [NASA Fellowship] unsuccessfully as a first and second year graduate student,” he recalls. “As they say, third time is the charm.”

View from Sjorskenten, a student housing complex where Sivadas was staying while studying at UNIS.
View from Sjorskenten, a student housing complex Sivadas stayed at while studying at UNIS.